On July 10, 1985, my wife was very pregnant with our second child, but was not due for another three weeks. It was a Wednesday night, and I had a home teaching appointment. Cristi was having contractions as I was getting ready to leave, but I was not taking her situation seriously. I mean, our first child was born three whole days after her due date, so wouldn’t it make sense that the next one would be born close to her due date, too?
So I took our three-year-old daughter Melissa with me home teaching, and left my wife home all alone. I was 27 at the time, and I had a bit more pride than common sense. I was about to learn a lesson.
The moment—and I mean the moment—I walked in the front door of the family I home taught, their telephone rang. It was my wife. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of “You need to come home right now!” She had lost the mucous plug while we were gone (that was maybe 15 minutes), and the contractions were coming fast and hard. Very hard.
Melissa and I got back in our Nissan Sentra wagon and drove home in a hurry.
“When my dear wife calls me, quickly I’ll obey…”
When we got home, a close friend scooped up Melissa. Cristi was ready to go, but I delayed our departure by a few more minutes because I insisted on changing my clothes. I shouldn’t have done that, either.
I remember hitting 90 miles per hour as we drove on the freeway (that was kind of fun, actually) and breaking a few other traffic laws along the 10 miles to the hospital, all of which I rationalized perfectly.
Cristi delivered our beautiful Amy about 20 minutes after we arrived at the Oregon City hospital. No drugs. Almost without the obstetrician. He had been at a baseball game with his kids.
The joy and surprise of having a new darling baby girl helped me hide my injured pride, but I have not forgotten the lesson I learned that day.
Of course, we all want to be right. We like to be right. But if we look back over our lives, at the times we thought we were right, if you are like me, it seems more often than not, our judgment was off. More often than not, I realize now, I have been wrong when I dearly wanted to be right. I was just protecting my pride, my false sense of self. I was not interested in the truth; I was interested in myself. It’s an indefensible position, a position I take less and less often now.
“I want to do just what is best, each and every day.”
That was 25 years ago. Since then, I’ve changed a lot. I am not all the way there yet, but more often I consider what is right before I commit myself to a hard stance on perceived fact. My wife looks at the world somewhat differently than I do. She has vast gifts of perception. Most of the time, she just knows things that I don’t pick up as quickly as she does. She has what I call a creepometer and it is nearly always accurate—she knows who to watch out for and who to trust. When I listen to her, it saves me time, effort and heartache.
I listen to her (and others) much better these days. I honestly care about every word that comes from her mouth. I really mean that. And because I take her so seriously, she takes me seriously as well. If you want respect, you first have to give it. If you want love, you must give it first, willingly, with no strings attached. It all comes back to you in time. It balances out.
This is just one of the lessons that has taught me to listen better, to listen with more than my ears. And when I say listen, I also mean heed.